Theological Thursdays: Knowing God: Sons Of God Part II

In Part I of this chapter we began examining the significance of our adoption as sons of God. Dr. Packer argued that of all the blessings that the gospel imparts to us, including justification, adoption is the highest and greatest blessing. Indeed the whole purpose of our existence is to become children of God, heirs of eternal life. Everything else is a means and facilitator to that end. So, before we get into what demands our adoption places upon us, we need to do our regular housekeeping function. If you are new to this study, you can find all of the previous lessons using the Knowing God category link. There are also study materials for the book available at

We have been examining the nature of being Christian, which has at its root the continuing mystery of adoption. As the Apostle John says in his first letter:

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1a

Yes, we are children of God! But being part of that august family means there are expectations for and of us. God is a holy God and he demands of children holiness. As Packer notes, he demands “gospel holiness.” The term is borrowed from the Puritans as “shorthand for authentic Christian living.” This is distinct from “legal holiness” that was the province of the Pharisees, centered in the religious forms, outward routines and appearances that spring from self-centered motives. Gospel holiness is the natural desire of the child of God for authentic purity of life that flows out of our love and gratitude to our heavenly Father.

If we are to be transformed into the likeness of Christ and filled with the righteousness that comes by grace and submission to the will of the Father, then our goal is to be holy as he is holy. We are called to be blameless, pure, and set apart as Christ our Lord has been set apart, the firstborn of many brethren.

We don’t start out holy. We start out forgiven. It is only over the course of a life of ongoing discipleship that we grow into our holiness. Along the way we will endure both correction at the hand of our heavenly Father as he trains us up in righteousness and satanic assaults against our ongoing efforts.

It is the demand for holiness that gives the law its proper place in our life. We are not antinomian, feeling that we are free from the law and then sin has no meaning, that keeping the law has no purpose. Instead we submit to what God demands. Jesus argued,

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. John 15:10

And John added: And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. 2 John 1:6

So when we sin, when we fail to keep his commandments, we repent, confess our failures and seek his forgiveness. After all, if you have been adopted you are his children, which leads us into the other important aspect of our adoption and that is our assurance, our understanding and faith in the finality of what God has done. Jesus said,

m, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:34-36

This is one of the ongoing areas of dispute within the Christian faith and it has been so since very early in the life of the Church. From the argument on one end of “once saved, always saved” to the other extreme of being a yo-yo between heaven and hell, going from saved to lost, to saved to lost as sin and repentance twist us back and forth while we are praying all the while that the string doesn’t break at the wrong time. Packer touches on the various positions that different elements in the Church have postured over the centuries.

While it appears there will be no agreement on a final understanding this side of heaven, there are some important things to remember. Jesus never says to those who are sent to his left and damnation, “I no longer know you.” No, he says “I never knew you.” How can that be said to a member of the family of God. The son abides forever and nothing can separate the child of God from the love of God a love that is defined by an intimate knowing.

Viewed in the light of our adoption into the family of God, assurance is not an idle part of the ongoing outworking of our sonship. As a perfect Father, he has sent his son to the be the author and finisher of our faith, and he who has begun this good work in us is eternally faithful to complete it. He has told us so. Who or what can then separate us from the love of our heavenly Father? Indeed, who?

Packer closes with a discussion of “The Great Secret.” How little regarded within the history of the Church has been given to the truth of adoption. It is almost as if it is our secret identity, hidden in the corner of our faith and seldom talked about. As Packer says,

For this is the Christian’s secret of this is the Christian’s secret of—a happy life?—yes, certainly, but we have something both higher and profounder to say. This is the Christian’s secret of a Christian life, and of a God-honoring life, and these are the aspects of the situation that really matter. May this secret become fully yours and fully mine.

Then Dr. Packer closes the chapter with a series of seventeen questions, designed to test how well we understand who we are and who we are called to be. I suggest you meditate on these questions every night for twenty-eight nights 9the amount of time for something to become a habit) and I guarantee you that your life will not be the same when you are done.

May God our Father bless you and keep you and may you fully grasp the significance of your adoption as his child, of Christ as your brother, and what that acceptance means to the rest of your life, both in how you live and the trust that guides your every step along the way. Hallelujah!